ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The San Antonio-class amphibious transport docking ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) steamed toward Haiti Oct. 7 to support Joint Task Force Matthew, which is overseeing U.S. military relief efforts on the island nation.
U.S. Southern Command established Joint Task Force Matthew to oversee U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti. The task force is supporting U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) following a request for U.S. assistance from the government of Haiti.
The addition of Mesa Verde brings amphibious, command and control, medium and heavy lift and road clearing capabilities suited for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions.
The 700 Sailors and Marines embarked aboard Mesa Verde also bring ship-to-shore expertise, the ability to make and transport fresh water, medical capabilities at sea and ashore, and many vital skills suited to helping after a hurricane.
The Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group Two, Rear Adm. Roy I. Kitchener said, "Some of the same capabilities that make amphibious Navy ships like Mesa Verde so effective in combat operations also makes them ideal to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. We're here to do all we can on behalf of the United States people."
Mesa Verde has a large well deck designed to flood with water which allows Landing Craft Utility vehicles the ability to transport large loads from a sea-based platform to a fouled coastline. This amphibious capability is unique to only a few types of Navy ships.
"Our well deck allows us to deploy the resources of Navy and Marine Corps forces directly ashore. We also have five rigid-hull inflatable boats that we can use for passenger transport," said Captain Randall Peck, commanding officer, USS Mesa Verde. "Mesa Verde also functions as an air base for three CH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters, which will be conducting medium and heavy lifting operations in conjunction with disaster relief efforts."
Members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Fleet Surgical Team Four, Navy Beach Group 2 and other elements of the Expeditionary Strike Group Two-led force are also participating in disaster relief efforts.
"From the medical perspective we first have to assess the injuries we will be tending to and how many people we'll need to bring aboard that will need surgical capabilities," said Chief Petty Officer Paulen Coakley Ware, senior enlisted advisor, Fleet Surgical Team Four, "We will ensure that our patients get the appropriate level of care."
Sailors and Marines aboard reacted emotionally to their mission as the ship prepares to support.
"For me it is an honor to be able to make a difference in someone's life," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Groff, assigned to Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202. "I joined the military to be a part of operations that have a direct impact on people. I just want to help them."
Mesa Verde is scheduled to arrive in Haiti Sunday.